Prior restraint and the curse of Leveson

Where is the defence of journalism against the predations of Leveson? Save for the likes of that ethically-challenged rentagob Kelvin MacKenzie, it isn’t coming from journalists, so worried are we about our jobs, and reputations within and without the trade. Journalists are being frightened into silence, and among the leadership of our own union there is a disturbing deference to Leveson.

At least we have the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom to fight our corner and that of media consumers who are the ultimate beneficiaries of a free press. In the latest issue of the print periodical Free Press is an article by Tim Crook, a journalism academic of this parish. In his opinion piece the Goldsmiths lecturer makes a number of important points, among which…

“[W]e can never be a democratic country when truth can be silenced by prior restraint and the quantifiers of a reasonable expectation of privacy and the public interest – boring Guardian and BBC style at the top, racy tittle-tattle by tabloid at the bottom – are decided by state officials and bodies recruited by a self-perpetuating elite.”

Crook is a little over-generous toward the senior editors’ luncheon club known as the Press Complaints Commission, but he has a point when it comes to our failure to promote restorative justice in the form of readers’ editors and other informal adjudicatory processes. And, as Crook says, there is no evidence that regulation reduces libel litigation.

Importing the Irish model of press regulation, statutory underpinning or whatever you want to call it will make no difference other than to further marginalise publications that do not conform to the establishment and media industry’s stifling pseudo-consensus.

The likely result of Leveson? A less free press, and less press generally.